A few years ago, on the roughly 7-hour drive from Madrid to Barcelona, a girlfriend and I took a break in Zaragoza, a town neither of us knew much about. It was one of those fortuitous, split-second decisions you always hope for when traveling: the sun was suddenly out, the town square we stumbled into was full of people—and Zaragoza, at that particular moment, couldn’t help but be utterly charming. We strolled past a majestic church and made our way to a fantastic local restaurant, where we drank good beer and sampled a few dishes I can’t remember, except that I’ve never had anything like them again.
I hadn’t thought much about Zaragoza since, until I came across the news that World Expo 2008 will take place in the city from June 14-September 14. The Expo will address the theme of ‘water and sustainable development,’ emphasizing the critical role that increasingly imperiled water resources play in our lives. The Expo’s website says that the event will take place on a thousand square meters of exhibition space and launch three notable new buildings: the largest freshwater aquarium in Europe (5,000 specimens, including giant Nile crocodiles!), the Water Tower, which has a floor shaped like a water droplet, and the Bridge Pavilion (above), a stunning, two-story span that drops pedestrians onto the main Expo site.
There’s architectural buzz around the Bridge Pavilion, especially, which spans the River Ebro. The structure, which functions as both an exhibit space and a main entry point for the Expo, was designed by Iraqi-born architectural superstar Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004). The bridge takes its inspiration, and its sinuous form, from the river it crosses. Expo planners expect as many as 10,000 visitors per hour to the Bridge Pavilion, and over 7.5 million total visitors to the Expo during its 3-month run.
Zaragoza is about 250 kilometers (just over 150 miles) from both Madrid and Barcelona, making it a relatively easy trip from Spain’s two largest cities. For a comprehensive map of the Expo grounds, click here.
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